Business Briefs – March 8, 2016

Health Law Fines Double For Many Uninsured at Tax Time

WASHINGTON (AP) — Many people who went without health insurance last year are now seeing fines more than double under President Obama’s health care law, tax preparation company H&R Block said Tuesday.

Among its customers who owe a penalty for the 2015 tax year, the average fine is $383, compared with $172 for 2014, the company said.

Separately, among those who complied with the law and took advantage of its taxpayer-subsidized private health insurance, 6 in 10 are now having to pay back to the IRS some portion of their financial assistance.

Study: Renters’ Rise Extends Beyond Big U.S. Cities to Suburbs

NEW YORK (AP) — A growing percentage of suburbanites rent, according to a new study.

About 29 percent of suburbanites were renters in 2014, up from 23 percent in 2006, according to a report released Tuesday by New York University’s Furman Center real estate think tank and the bank Capital One.

The cost of renting is rising in most of the biggest metropolitan areas, the study found.

Pre-Paid Card Users, Under Scrutiny, Find Tax Refunds Frozen

PHOENIX (AP) — Thousands of people have had their prepaid debit cards frozen when they try to direct their tax refund to their accounts, a result of financial industry efforts to combat an escalation in tax fraud.

It’s keeping people from their money, and delaying access to much-anticipated tax refunds. People who rely on prepaid debit card accounts are often poorer Americans who don’t have traditional bank accounts.

United Faces Battle With Unhappy Investors Over Board Seats

NEW YORK (AP) — In a surprise move Tuesday morning, Altimeter Capital Management and PAR Capital Management made a public pitch to add six of their own nominees to the board. The two investment firms own a combined 7 percent stake of United Continental Holdings Inc.

Brad Gerstner, CEO of Altimeter Capital, said in a statement that investors are “greatly disappointed with United’s poor performance and bad decisions over the last several years.” The firms’ announcement comes one day after United increased its existing board by three members to 15, a move Gerstner called “a cynical attempt to preserve power by this entrenched board.”

Medicare to Test New Payment Model for Some Outpatient Drugs

WASHINGTON (AP) — Medicare is proposing new ways to pay for drugs administered in a doctor’s office, including many chemotherapy medications.

Chief Medical Officer Patrick Conway said Tuesday that Medicare plans to begin testing its new approach later this year.

The government won’t be telling doctors which drugs to prescribe.